It wasn’t a joke, though it certainly could have been.
A funny one, too.
Whenever Peters Township senior Gabe Pritz traveled to out-of-town volleyball tournaments this past summer, his first question at the front desk typically went something like this: “Um, which way is the weight room?”
Jokes aside, Pritz was asking – without flexing – because he spent the offseason trying to bulk up for basketball, his other love. Pritz, who was the Observer-Reporter’s Player of the Year, averaged 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, but the 6-5 forward didn’t feel like enough of a physical force inside.
“I was getting muscled around a little bit, and I told myself I would add some weight,” Pritz said. “I’ve gained about 17 or 18 pounds since last season. Let’s just say I’ll hopefully be doing the pushing this year.”
Led by Pritz, Peters Township has a very good shot at doing some team-oriented pushing in Section 4-AAAA. The Indians return three starters from last year’s 12-12 team and should have one of the classifications strongest backcourts with senior Dakota Norton (9.2 ppg) and R.J. Pfeuffer (8.7 ppg) coming back.
“A lot is going to be determined by our guard play,” Peters Township coach Gary Goga said. “If we handle the ball and play smart, we’re going to be far better off. That’s the biggest thing we’re focusing on: execution on the offensive end.”
Which starts with Pritz, who shot 53.4 percent (133 for 269) while also contributing 1.2 blocks and one assist per game.
Pritz altered his diet after consulting with his family doctor, as well as a nutritionist. One example: When his mom cooked, she’d make three extra all-white chicken breasts for Gabe. And when he was on the road for volleyball, he’d tailor his workout routine to whatever the hotel he was staying at offered.
“I really didn’t take any days off,” said Pritz, who also added three inches to his vertical leap – now about 34-even.
The Indians lose guards Kevin Glod (graduation) and Trent McPherson (moved to West Virginia), but they return letterman Craig Johnson, J.C. Brush and Joe Brucker – all guards.
Section 4-AAAA will be anything but easy, with Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Trinity and Canon-McMillan all figuring to compete for the title.
Trinity, which will have a first-year coach after former assistant Stan Noszka replaced long time head coach Joe Dunn in the offseason, returns all five starters but moves up from Class AAA, where the Hillers beat Kittanning and Keystone Oaks to reach the WPIAL quarterfinals and finish 14-11.
Senior guard Christian Koroly is Trinity’s top returner after averaging 15.8 points per game. Guard/forward Corey Hunsberger (12.6 ppg) and forward Jared Deep (11.8 ppg) – both All-District selections – are also back, along with guard Berton Miller and guard/forward Avery King.
“We have a pretty experienced team, at least with our first five guys,” Noszka said. “After that, we’re going to have to have some of our younger players step up. With us being in Class AAAA, it’s going to be hard to play with five or six kids. We’re going to need some people to step up for us.”
Canon-McMillan lost four seniors to graduation, but the Big Macs have a nine-member senior class this season. Senior guard Brett Haney averaged a team-high 13.2 points per game a season ago, and senior center Zach Wesolowski pulled down 4.7 points per game.
Like Trinity, Canon-Mac will open the season by playing in the EQT Energy Classic this Friday through Sunday, a tournament the Big Macs won last year with Wesolowski earning Most Value Player honors. Canon-McMillan will host the event.
Class AAAA Girls
As if Section 4-AAAA wasn’t difficult enough, Chartiers Valley, a WPIAL Class AAA semifinalist last year, has taken up residence, making it that much more difficult for local teams Canon-McMillan and Peters Township.
Besides Chartiers Valley, which returns almost every impact player from last year, Baldwin, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair are all expected to be good, and Mt. Lebanon won its third WPIAL title in the past four years last season.
“The balance of power in Class AAAA is tilted in one direction, and that’s to our section,” Canon-McMillan coach Frank Zebrasky said.
Junior guards Olivia Lorusso and Brittany Hutchinson lead a Canon-McMillan team that doesn’t have a single senior, though the Big Macs have six juniors and seven sophomores.
Lorusso averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game, while Hutchinson contributed 7.9 points per game.
Maleia Ruane, Justine Burnquist, Rachel Wattick and Gabrielle Trest are the juniors Zebrasky will count on. Danielle Parker, Morgan Gasbarrini, Abby Gillespie, Mackenzie Monaghan and Mariah Chandler comprise the sophomore group.
One odd stat: 10 plays on the Big Macs’ roster play two or more sports.
“We’re much better at running because of our athletic ability,” Zebrasky said. “We don’t have somebody who’s taking 500 shots a day in the offseason. They’re all doing their other activities. But we like to create off our defensive pressure.”
Peters Township lost all five starters from last year’s 12-13 team that reached the Class AAAA playoffs.
Bridget Loether, Becky Wockley and Casey Cogley – two freshman guards and a sophomore forward – are the Indians’ returning letterman.